Come & enjoy our best ever line up of live entertainment.
More educational talks – lots of new stalls – more stuff for the kids – and a presentation to Ken Loach
Here are the final details of the programme for this year’s Wigan Diggers’ Festival, which coincides with the 340th Anniversary of the death of Gerrard Winstanley, the Wigan born leader of 17th century radical movement known as “The Diggers“, who were referred to by the late Tony Benn, as the “first true socialists“.
This year’s main festival sponsors are A big thanks to them, plus to all our many other trades union branch and regional sponsors, stall holders, artists, speakers and festival volunteers for making our annual FREE to the public event to celebrate Gerrard Winstanley & The Diggers possible.
is film director, campaigner and lifelong socialist KEN LOACH
Ken will receive his “outstanding contribution to the Diggers’ cause” award at around 1.00pm from previous winners Maxine Peake (2014) & Jimmy McGovern (2015) on behalf of the Festival Committee.
Tony Benn was the first recipient of the award in 2013.
6th Wigan Diggers’ Festival – More about this year’s performers.
Diggers’ Festival – Site Map & Stall Location, etc
FESTIVAL SITE LOCATION IN WIGAN TOWN CENTRE
The Diggers’ Festival site (A) is less than 5 minutes walk from Wigan Bus Station (between Market Street & Hallgate) and both of the town’s railway stations. Turn left out of Wallgate station, right out of Wigan North Western.
The best place to park your car (if you’re coming by car) is in the multi-storey car park on Wallgate immediately adjacent (left hand side looking from front) to Wigan North Western railway station. It’s only £3 all day and again less than 5 minutes walk away from our main festival site.
THIS YEAR SEES A NEW FESTIVAL BROCHURE with A MESSAGE OF SUPPORT from LABOUR PARTY LEADER JEREMY CORBYN, plus local MP Lisa Nandy.
It’s packed with background info about The Diggers, Levellers and OUR LOCAL HEROGerrard Winstanley, also about how to get involved.
Scene from the stage during Merry Hell’s performance at the 2014 Diggers’ Festival.
Calling all politically progressive bands and performers! Have you got what it takes to perform at this year’s Digger’s Festival?
If you think you have, then our music & entertainment committee would like to hear from you. Just download the application form, fill it in, and e-mail it back to us via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to put on a stall at this year’s Festival? Then here’s the 2016 Stallholders’ Application Form
We are now taking stall applications for the Wigan Diggers’ Festival 2016. The number of pitches available is limited, so please please send your completed application form, and a cheque for the appropriate amount, as early as possible to avoid disappointment. All cheques payable to Wigan Diggers’ Festival.
You will hear if your application was successful by no later than 31st July
Want to Volunteer to help out before, and/or on the day?
Every year we need rafts of volunteers to help out with a variety jobs and roles, both before, and on the day of the festival itself, and this year will obviously be no exception. If you can help out any time during FRIDAY 9th SEPTEMBER 2016 when we will be erecting our Marquees, Beer Tent, and preparing the entire festival site, and/or alternatively are prepared to help out for AT LEAST FOUR HOURS on the day of the festival on SATURDAY 10th SEPTEMBER 2016 as a festival steward, or in helping to staff our stall, running errands, as a first aider, or working behind the bar, then you should message us via our Facebook page Wigan Diggers’ Festival stating in what capacity you’d like to help, and on what days and times, and we’ll get back to you.
If you’d like to help out a lot more than that and become a member of our growing, and welcoming Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee then why not come and join us every 3rd Monday of the month, in the private meeting room of The Anvil pub, Dorning Street, Wigan. 7.30pm k.o.
Here’s the first batch of photos by Al Balmer, from Saturday’s big do. Despite the showers earlier on, the weather improved throughout the day and the Festival was another resounding success. More photos to follow.
Photos from our 5th Festival which was another resounding success. Photos by Al Balmer.
Scene from the stage during Merry Hell’s performance at last year’s Diggers’ Festival. They’re our headline act this year, and on our main stage at 8.30pm.
5th Wigan Diggers’ Festival – Saturday 12th September – The Wiend – Wigan – WN1 1PF
It’s been a year in the making and here it is, this year’s Wigan Diggers’ Festival programme. It’s our fullest day of activies ever, and has something for everyone.
10.30 am – 11.00 am Wigan Parish Church bells will ring, as a prelude to the festival to celebrate the radical Wiganer Gerrard Winstanley who was baptised at the church in 1609, and went on to become the founder, inspirational theorist and spokesperson of the radical ‘True Leveller’ movement, better known as ”The Diggers”, during the 17th century ‘Commonwealth’ period.
11.00 am– 11.15 am – The Wiend – Official unveilling of a new Gerrard Winstanley sandstone mounted plaque to mark Wigan Council’s re-naming of the garden area of our festival site “Gerrard Winstanley Gardens”. The renaming of the area, is in recognition of the Wigan born radical thinker and activist, whose role in the history of the common people of this country, and for equality and social justice throughout the World, we commemorate each year at our festival. His and the Diggers’ vision of the Earth as “a common treasury for all”, of full equality, and of fellowship, community and love for one another, quite definitely linger on…..and provides us with inspiration and hope, for a better future for all humankind, everywhere.
The impressive sandstone mounted plaque, in recognition of Gerrard Winstanley, has been kindly donated by Wigan Councillor Lawrence Hunt, and will be officially unveiled by ex-Wigan TUC Secretary Mike Farley.
11.15 am – 11.35 am – Diggers’ Festival Town Centre Parade led by Gerrard Winstanley actor Brendan Delaney and members of Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee (form up on The Wiend for a short walk around town).
Scene from last year’s town centre Diggers’ Parade.
11.35 am – 11.55 am – St. Geoge’s Hill 1649 Digging Re-enactment in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (close to The Face of Wigan statue) during which our guest actor Brendan Delaney will play the role of Gerrard Winstanley, and repeat some of his famous words from April 1649. He will be accompanied by members of the Bolton Clarion Socialist Choir who will lead the singing of Winstanley’s “Diggers’ Song” and “The World Turned Upside Down” by Leon Rosselson, a song which tells the story of The Diggers, made famous by Billy Bragg.
12.00 noon – 9.30 pm OCCUPIE WIGAN BEER TENT (sponsored by Walkers Union Solicitors) OPENS + MAIN STAGE ANNOUNCEMENTS
12.15 pm to 1.15 pm – In our Arts & Culture Marquee in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (for age range 8 years plus) – England’s most prolific writer of murder mystery plays Chris Martin, reads from his debut novel. There will be dressing up and much fun to have in solving this case!
12.30 pm to 1.00 pm – At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (approx 150 yards from main festival site opposite the Post Office – over 18s only) – John Winstanley(author of Unsigned & Unscene) will give a talk about who Gerrard Winstanley was, and what inspired him to do what he did with an “An introduction to Winstanley & Radicalism” – Words by John Gurney (RIP) & Derek Winstanley.
12.40 pm to 13.05 pm – On the Dorothy Fryman Song & Story Stage – Solo Artist: JENNIFER REID
1.00 pm to 2.00 pm – At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (opposite the Post Office) – “The Diggers and the English Revolution”a talk by Ian Brooke (who will be dressed for the part). Ian explains the creation of The Diggers in the context of the huge popular revolution that shook England in the 1640s. He outlines the movement of civil disobedience which amounted to a national uprising, that began a train of events, resulting in the overthrow of the monarchy in 1649.
1.05 pm to 1.15 pm – On our MAIN STAGE – 2015 Gerrard Winstanley ‘Spade’ Award presentation to Liverpool screen writer, producer and film maker Jimmy McGovern.
Included amongst Jimmy McGovern’s works, are the dramatisation of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, 1995-98 Liverpool Dockers’ Strike, the events of Bloody Sunday, and a recent BBC film on the controversial Joint Enterprise Law.
1.15 pm to 2.15 pm – In our Arts & Culture Marquee in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (for age range 10 years plus) – Children’s author Su Ainsworth reads from her debut book “Drabacus” about holiday pals Susan, Dean, Pauline and Michael who are propelled into an adventure when they discover a secret lift in their hotel. Can they solve a 64 year mystery while avoiding a bizarre character and his power which reaches across time?
2.00 pm to 2.20 pm – Diggers’ Parade accompanied Greenall’s Brass Band (form up on outside the John Bull Chophouse for a second short walk around town).
2.00 pm to 2.30 pm – In our Arts & Culture Marquee area in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (for age range 7 plus) – ZAZOU PUPPET THEATRE present: “The story of the Diggers”
2.00 pm to 2.30 pm – At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (opposite the Post Office) –Katharine Ann Angel (author of “Being Forgotten” & “The Froggitt Chain”) will give the first public readings from her new novel “The Burglar’s Baby” “Social responsibilities & the decline in human welfare” and provide personal anecdotes about tutoring excluded youths, fostering teens and housing the disadvantaged.
Incidental acoustic folk music will be provided by Dean Lane at the Little Fifteen
2.30 pm to 3.45 pm – At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (opposite the Post Office) – Chris Coats & Catriona Stamp present “A Season ticket to the Promised Land” – Based on material from Utopia Britannica & Communes Britannica. Come on a journey from St. Georges Hill in 1649 to Hyde Park in 1969. Meet the Diggers through the ages from Gerrard Winstanley to “King of the Hippes” Sid Rawle. “Win” a Chartist Land Settlement cottage and hear the outcome of Operation Tolstory! WARNING! May include songs, poetry, readings, film clips & FUN!
Wigan Diggers’ Festival is a great day out for little Diggers. We’ve got a Puppet Show, face painting, balloons, circus performers and lots of other entertaining and educational stuff for kids to get involved with.
3.30 pm to 4.30 pm – In our Arts & Culture Marquee in Gerrard Winstanley Gardens (for age range 6 years plus) – “The Great Snail Race of Toadflax Hall” will come to life as children are invited to colour in pictures from the book while its author Lynne Taylor tells you all about them.
3.45 pm to 4.45pm– At Little Fifteen, Wallgate (opposite the Post Office) – Poet, writer, chef, former gravedigger and exhumer with personal experience of autism, epilepsy & osteoporosis, Peter Street asks: “Work for the working class does it really pay?”
There will be over 50 stalls at this year’s festival – providing hot food, books, arts and craft products, also for our performers merchandise, local credit union, various campaign and community groups, trades unions and political organisations. See this year’s Festival Site Map for full details.
8.30 pm to 9.30 pm – On our MAIN STAGE – Live Band: MERRY HELL
9.30 pm – FESTIVAL ENDS & THE BIG CLEAR UP STARTS.
This year’s festival will also play its part in the National Day of Action in solidarity with refugees everywhere, and a banner saying: REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE will adorn our MAIN STAGE throughout the festival. A solidarity message from our festival will also be read out at the day of action’s national demonstration in London which concludes at Downing Street.
This REFUGEES WELCOME banner will be one of our two stage banners on Saturday
LATE NEWS: Throughout the afternoon Anteros Theatre Company will be performing the opening scenes from the play ‘The Digger’s Daughter’– a historically inspired time travelling adventure – by Jonathan Kemp in Market Place (located at the bottom of The Wiend) as a taster for the full adaptation of the play to be staged next year. Our replacement Gerrard Winstanley actor, Brendan Delaney will be digging hard!”
Astral Circus Performers will also be on site to entertain us throughout the day.
FESTIVAL SITE MAP & STALL HOLDERS INFORMATION – NOTE: All stallholders are asked to be on site and have your stalls set up by no later than 10.30am on Saturday morning. You are also required to report to our Diggers HQ on arrival, and before setting up your stall . If you haven’t already paid us, you will also be expected to pay us any monies owed BEFORE you set up.
CALL OUT for VOLUNTEERS: Although we’ve already got a pretty big team of festival volunteers, WE STILL NEED MORE VOLUNTEERS TO HELP WITH A RANGE OF JOBS – from preparing the site and erecting Gazebos, and regulating vehicle access to the festival site (from 8.00am to 10.30am on Saturday morning), to site stewarding (all day), to waste control, to town centre parade stewarding (between 11.00am and 11.45am, and 1.45pm and 2.30pm) as well as after 6.00pm until 10.00pm behind the bar, serving drinks and clearing up at the end.
An invitation to our now customary Wigan Diggers’ Festival warm up bash in Bolton (It was flaming roasting last year never mind warm!) This is a free event, and everyone is welcome!
Poster artwork for this year’s Wigan Diggers’ Bolton Bash
We have a great line up (we will post running order later) – Mugshot Alley, Bard Company, Eliza P Singer, Nat Clare, Petrova C Fairhurst, Paul Blackburn, Darren Lea-Grime, Steve O’Donoghue, Kindred Spirit, Christopher Bainbridge, Fade (David Lockley & Steve Brown), Tony Kasazkaja, Jodie Smith-Richardson, Holly Jenkinson, Eva Curless, Andy Nicholson, John Howard Reeves, Shirley-Anne Kennedy, Terry Kinney, Bolton Clarion Choir.
There will also be a range of stalls, raffle, real ale, diggers’ t-shirts and books.
Jefferama and Bard Company are hosting the event with our friends at Bolton Socialist Club, thanks for your support everyone, performers and audience alike!
This year’s first leaflet artwork. More information, including details of all the performers to follow:
If you would like to book a stall for your organisation, community group, co-operative or small business at this year’s Festival then please download the linked file, complete as appropriate, and return to the address provided.
This year’s Diggers’ Festival was undoubtedly our biggest and best yet, if the feedback from the organisers, and those who attended is anything to go by. While it is difficult to estimate the exact numbers who came along during the course of the day, the crowd was at least 50% larger than last year’s, and surely in the region of 3,000 or more. Some even suggest a much higher figure.
Whatever the figure, the main thing was, a great time was had by all, and our aim of raising greater public awareness of Gerrard Winstanley and his ideas, and those of his Digger followers, by means of an annual celebration in his hometown, was once again successfully fulfilled.
Here are some fantastic photos by Al Balmer which capture some the day’s activities. Well done to everyone involved. Onwards to 2015.
It’s been twelve months in the making, and here it is at last, this year’s final Wigan Diggers’ Festival programme.
The organisers believe it has all the makings of our biggest and best yet, as well as an enjoyable, fun day out for everyone.
In brief: A feast of 24 excellent bands, duos, solo artists, poets and other performers (amongst them two radical choirs), a historical digging re-enactment, a puppet show, arts project tent, two educational talks, town centre procession, plus over 50 book, food and other stalls, not least of which, our ever popular “Occupie Wigan” Beer Tent serving our own specially commissioned and locally brewed (Allgates) Gerrard Winstanley Ale, (Prospect) Diggers 1649 Ale, (Holts) Resistance is Fertile Lager, and a range of other excellent beers, ciders and perry.
The event will be officially opened by John McDonnell MP at 12.00noon.
Still not sure what this Diggers thing is all about? Then listen to this excellent version of Leon Rosselson’s “The World Turned Upside Down” by the Barracudas from 1985. It tells (almost) the entire Diggers’ story in 3 mins 46 seconds. Definitely worth a listen if you want to get in the mood for the Festival on Saturday in Gerrard Winstanley’s home town.
Maxine Peake on receiving the Wigan Diggers’ Festival Award on 07/09/14.
Maxine: “this is better than any Oscar or any BAFTA …..”
On Sunday local award winning actress Maxine Peake, who is currently playing the lead role in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, was presented with this year‘s “Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award” presented annually by the Wigan Diggers’ Festival committee.
The accolade is for her “outstanding contribution to the cause of making the Earth a common treasury for all” in the spirit of Winstanley and the Diggers’ movement, and follows on from another recent award to the locally born actor, by Bolton Socialist Club, for her “outstanding contribution to Socialism” in the shape of a Honorary Life Membership of the club.
Appearing on the BBC’s Culture Show last year, Maxine — known for her roles in Silk, Shameless, Dinnerladies and The Village, and who is the holder of a Broadcasting Press Guild Award — spoke of the influence of her grandfather’s left wing politics, and how these helped shape her view of the World.
Last year, she also wrote and performed in a play on Radio 4 about the occupation of Parkside Colliery at Newton-le-Willows by women led by Anne Scargill back in 1994.
Speaking on behalf of the Diggers’ committee, their media spokesperson Stephen Hall said: “Maxine Peake is someone who has remained true to her socialist principles. Despite her growing fame as an actor, she has never lost touch with her working class roots. Instead, she has used her notoriety and work as an actor to speak out against the government’s ‘crippling austerity measures’, and to support protests against them.
“She has also helped in recent years, to revive interest in the annual Peterloo Massacre commemoration event in Manchester, is a Trustee of the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, and supports numerous other progressive causes. She even worked as a volunteer and served behind the bar at our second Diggers’ festival” (shown below) Mr Hall said.
Actors James Quinn, John Graham Davies & Maxine Peake serve the first pints of Gerrard Winstanley and Diggers 1649 Ales at the 2nd Wigan Diggers’ Festival in 2012
“In our view she’s an unsung hero, and a jewel of the British Left, and someone we should all want to treasure as a big asset to the movement for social equality and social justice in this country.
“It’s on this basis, and her absolutely fantastic and much acclaimed reciting of Percy Shelley’s poem “The Masque of Anarchy” (written shortly after the Peterloo Massacre) at last year’s Manchester International Festival, that we decided to present her with our own version of an ‘Oscar’ in the shape of our annual Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award, the first ever one of which we presented to veteran Labour MP Tony Benn last year.
“Sadly, Tony is no longer with us, and is a huge loss. We’re hoping Maxine will be around for very many years to come.” Mr. Hall said.